Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Isle of Arran

On our last day in West Kilbride, while most of the folks went to Glasgow for the day, Tim, Tina and I took the ferry to the Isle of Arran that we could see from the castle. The day began with beautiful sunshine that lasted most of the day. Late in the afternoon, the clouds rolled in and we managed to get caught in a downpour before ducking into a small pub as we waited for the return ferry.

We thought about taking the train to the ferry at Androssan, but it would have meant a change and an extra forty minutes. Fortunately one of the town's few taxis was waiting for a no-show, so we had a quick ride. We lucked out catching a taxi on the way back, too. The 55-minute ferry ride provided some great views of the West Kilbride countryside and the island as we approached Brodick.
Looking Towards West Kilbride
Approaching Brodick
A quick check at the visitor center got us on a bus to the other side of the island. (The Europeans do a much better job of providing tourist centers than we do.) The nice lady in the tourist center also showed us how much more was available if we had more time. The highlights would have been some Bronze Age stone circles and a Viking burial mound, but that would have meant both a longer bus ride and a bit of a hike.
Lochranza Castle

Our goals at the end of the bus ride to the village of Lochranza included The Arran Malt distillery, a castle ruin and a church. All were within a short walk when we got off the bus on the western shore. We were accompanied on the bus by some students on break. They were out for some hiking, a popular activity in Britain. The British are much more accepting of hikers than we are in the US. It seems like every time a group wants to open a trail in the USA, they run into neighbors who are positive that the hikers near their property are going to rob and kill them and even if they survive their property values will drop precipitously. It's too bad. Given our national obesity problem, it should be easier to create urban trails. In Britain trails are often along any boundary or hedgerow making it very easy to walk long or short distances.
The Arran Malt Distillery
Unfortunately the distillery was closed to visitors. The website shows a fancy visitor center, but it is only open four days a week in winter. This was as close as we got to a tasting room, so that was a disappointment.

The small church did have an interesting graveyard for Tina and Tim to look at in terms of the Halloween Haunt they do each year. The castle ruins were spectacular in the winter sun. I also ran into a fellow bird watcher who had a scope on the ducks. He pointed out a Goosander, which is just British for our Common Merganser.
An old house near Lochranza
We caught the bus back to the ferry, but got off before we reached town at a cheese factory that served lunch. On the walk back to town we passed the golf course and an interesting street sign before getting caught in a rain storm. Tina stopped in a small shop while Tim and I sallied on to a pub for an ale as we waited out the rain before catching the ferry back.
Arran Golf Course

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